New Zealand 288 for 9 (Astle 90, How 66, Fleming 55) beat West Indies 207 (Sarwan 56) by 81 runs
A total of 288 for 9 - thanks to fluent innings from Nathan Astle, Jamie How and Stephen Fleming - proved more than enough for New Zealand as they completed an 81- run win over West Indies at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Winning the toss and choosing to bat on a good pitch, New Zealand were given a fine 136-run partnership as Astle and How tore into an indifferent opening spell from West Indies. Cashing in on the wayward bowling, both veteran and rookie cut, drove and pulled their way to fifties by the half-way stage of their innings. At the top of his game today, Astle played the senior role to perfection in his 90, showing How the way to handle matters and seize the initiative when the opposition is down.
Upping the tempo with some glorious pull shots, How overtook Astle quite early and raised New Zealand's fifty in the 11th over with a ferocious pull over midwicket for four before bringing up his second one-day international fifty in the 21st over. Growing in confidence, he had reached 66 from 91 deliveries when he was bowled by Chris Gayle. Making room to loft a fast yorker-length delivery pitched on middle and leg, How completely missed the line and became the first casualty of the day. Fleming, off the mark with a glorious cover drive for four, was then the dominant partner in an 88-run stand for the second wicket with Astle. Looking at ease at the No.3 position, Fleming worked the ball around the fielders and lent solidity to the innings to carry on the platform laid down by the openers. Unfazed and uncomplicated, he raced to fifty with some crashing shots either side of the wicket.
At one stage it looked as if the hosts would get well over 300, but West Indies hit back with the wickets of Fleming and Astle and allowing just 67 runs and two - yes, just two - fours while seizing six wickets in the last ten overs. If the bowling attack was pedestrian in the early stages of the game then in the latter half it was instrumental in stemming the run flow. Gayle, sending down his innocuous offbreaks, was the key man in controlling Astle and turning the heat on the home side. Cool, calm and collected as only Gayle can be, he wound up one end while Dwayne Smith bowled his slow medium pacers at the other, and the combination proved vital. Fidel Edwards, who took a beating early on, bowled with venom at the death and his figures of 10-0-65-1 did little justice to the efforts he put in. Ian Bradshaw too came back from a poor opening spell to bowl an accurate line, while Rawl Lewis, the Supersub, proved competent on his first international appearance in seven years, picking up the wicket of Brendon McCullum.
This stirring fightback from the bowlers wrested the impetus from New Zealand, but ultimately, the total would suffice as West Indies were similarly choked in their own reply. Their inability to chase down targets has been a major issue for West Indies, and today's performance was a glaring reminder. Shane Bond, getting good lateral movement, struck the first blow when he forced Gayle to hit over the top and hole out to Daniel Vettori at deep cover (10 for 1). Impetuosity has long been the bane of Gayle's batting, and today he flattered to deceive again. After crunching James Franklin's first ball through the covers with an air of disdain, his nothing shot to Bond opened up the gates for further trouble. Runako Morton, another batsman making a comeback to the side, was beaten all ends up by Franklin going for an expansive drive off the back foot the first ball he faced.
Daren Ganga and Ramnaresh Sarwan had their moments of nerves to begin with, but overcame the initial pressure to add 88 for the third wicket in good time. Ganga, returning to the one-day scene after more than three years, struck two sweet boundaries in the 14th over - a firm pull and a sumptuous cover drive off Franklin - as he set about shouldering the run chase. Settling into his groove with a couple of good drives square of the wicket, Sarwan began rotating the strike, and with Ganga going hard at the other end their partnership looked good for more before Scott Styris struck. Having just glanced Styris down to fine leg for four, Ganga was forced to check a loose drive and the ball bobbed straight to Astle at cover (102 for 3).
Sarwan kept his cool to carry on to fifty, but by the 30th over the run rate had sneaked its way past 7, and the pressure had begun to show on Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Jeetan Patel, New Zealand's Supersub, came and dismissed Chanderpaul just when he was beginning to shuffle across his stumps and nudge the ball for quick singles. Giving the ball a tweak from his high-arm action, he ripped one across Chanderpaul's awkward stance and past his legs to hit the stumps. Dumbfounded, Chanderpaul took a second to figure out what had happened, but by then Patel and his team-mates were whooping it up halfway down the pitch.
New Zealand's best bowler on show, however, was Vettori, who teased and tempted through his spell. Unafraid to flight the ball, Vettori bowled well, varying his line and maintaining impressive control. Dismissing Wavell Hinds by forcing him into a rash slog to Franklin on the cover boundary, Vettori then trained his sights on the dangerous Sarwan, who had progressed to 56. Having already beaten Sarwan in the flight - both in the drive and the cut - Vettori backed his instincts and gave the ball a little more air. Sarwan, prodding a tame drive off the front foot, got a thin edge that popped off McCullum's shoulder and lobbed up towards point, where Lou Vincent ran forward and held a fine catch.
Smith came, whipped three effortless sixes - two off Patel in the 38th over - but ultimately succumbed to the pressure of a mounting run rate. Good field placing added pressure and West Indies were finally bowled out for 207. Patel, who played the Supersub role to perfection with two wickets, a catch and a run-out, provided fine support to Vettori in stifling West Indies. New Zealand lead the five-match series 1-0, and the heat is definitely on West Indies.
Chris Gayle c Vettori b Bond 6 (10 for 1)
Hoicks over cover, but finds the man just beyond the inner circle
Runako Morton b Franklin 0 (14 for 2)
Goes for an expansive drive off the back foot, misses it
Daren Ganga c Astle b Styris 54 (102 for 3)
Soft dismissal, driven to cover
Shivnarine Chanderpaul b Patel 18 (137 for 4)
Flighted delivery, Chanderpaul steps across his stumps, ball sneaks through his legs
Wavell Hinds c Franklin b Vettori 3 (142 for 5)
Slogs it straight to cover boundary sweeper who takes a good catch
Ramnaresh Sarwan c Vincent b Vettori 56 (153 for 6)
Tossed up, half-drives, ball pops off `keeper to a diving point
Denesh Ramdin c Styris b Mason (184 for 7)
Width offered but slashes right to the cover sweeper
Rawl Lewis run out (Patel) 5 (191 for 8)
Great throw from cover beats the outstretched bat
Dwayne Smith c Patel b Mason 38 (191 for 9)
Driven uppishly to long-off
Fidel Edwards c Franklin b Patel 3 (207 for 10)
Slogged to long-on, simple catch
Jamie How b Gayle 66 (136 for 1)
Makes room to drive, ball crashes into middle stump
Stephen Fleming c Chanderpaul b Smith 55 (224 for 2)
Tries to chip it over cover, ball pops up to fielder
Nathan Astle c Bradshaw b Smith 90 (234 for 3)
Chips a full ball on leg straight to short midwicket
Brendon McCullum b Ramdin b Lewis 2 (240 for 4)
Looks to run the ball fine, `keeper snaps the thin edge
Peter Fulton c Smith b Gayle 7 (255 for 5)
Goes for a slog, holes out to the man at long-on
James Franklin c Lewis b 2 (259 for 6)
Wild slog to leg, very well-judged catch at midwicket
Hamish Marshall run-out (Smith) 7 (278 for 7)
Superb flat throw from the deep finds him short
Scott Styris lbw b Edwards 36 (288 for 8)
Misses a full ball pitched right on middle
Daniel Vettori run out (Ramdin) 0 (288 for 9)
Charges down the pitch, `keeper hits the stumps
Jamie Alter is editorial assistant of Cricinfo